Ukrainian Sports Club Avoids Sudden Death

IMG_0577Evan Bleier

A year after alarm bells sounded when its home on Second Avenue was put on the rental market, the Ukrainian Sports Club is still soldiering on, and will be among the neighborhood drinking establishments showing the Super Bowl this weekend.

Wasyl Zinkewitsch, the president of the club, said that previous reports that it might leave the neighborhood were misinterpreted. “Our interests are to keep this club running,” he said while sipping from a bottle of Coors Light yesterday evening. “We’ve been here since 1947.”

In February of last year, The Local reported that the club was reeling from $80,000 in yearly property tax, $25,000 per year in insurance, and $250,000 in repairs after a fire the previous summer. To cover those costs, the sports fraternity is currently hoping to rent out a commercial space on the second floor, a vacant loft apartment, and even the front room of its clubhouse.

“We need some serious revenue to keep this place going,” said Mr. Zinkewitsch. “There’s no other choice. We have to rent places that were once exclusively part of the club.”

Screen shot 2012-02-03 at 9.23.03 AMMeredith Hoffman Members of the club last year.

The club was started after World War II by a group of Ukrainian immigrants with a passion for sports. According to its charter, the members-only group is not open to the public, which sometimes gives people the wrong idea. “The point was to build a club around sports,” said Mr. Zinkewitsch. “We’re not a political organization.”

Memorabilia commemorating the New York Ukrainians’ participation in a soccer tournament in 1965 hangs on a wall in the club. “They were the first club team to participate in an international game,” said Ozzi Verbitsky, the club’s vice president. A letter from Robert F. Kennedy congratulating the team on their achievement is displayed on a bulletin board in the hallway.

Although attendance is not as strong as it once was, a couple of upcoming events will likely bring members through the door. Mr. Verbitsky expects to see a crowd on Feb. 18, when Ukrainian boxer Vitali Klitschko defends his WBC heavyweight championship belt against British boxer Dereck Chisora. “We’ll get a lot of people coming here,” he said.

And then there’s that little game on Sunday.

The Ukrainian Sports Club is running a Super Bowl pool, where participants pay $10 to make a “The Price is Right”-style guess at the total combined score of both teams, getting as close as possible without going over. “It’s first come, first serve,” said Mr. Zinkewitsch, adding that many of the good numbers are already taken.

The proceeds from the pool probably won’t help with the club’s financial difficulties, but Mr. Zinkewitsch and Mr. Verbitsky are looking forward to Sunday’s game for another reason. They expect to have a large group of spectators and are grateful for the opportunity to see the Giants try to win another championship.

“Most of us here are Giants fans – diehards,” said Mr. Zinkewitsch. “We would love to see the Giants win. We’ll be watching.”